I copied down a lot of quotes from Billy (some are surely not completely accurate, but all are close). I'd be curious to hear lessons that others wrote down, if any!
"The voice is external--it is made up of other voices. A fresh or
original voice is composed of other voices but the influences are not as
"This is a fuck-you poem to The Wasteland." (on Nantucket, by William Carlos Williams)
"Poetry is harder than writing." (quoting a student; Billy called this statement simultaneously stupid and profound.)
"An editor isn't looking for the next break-through poet. He or she
isn't looking for an emotionally transcendent experience. An editor is
looking for only one thing: a reason to stop reading. A deal-breaker."
"Walk the reader through the rooms of the poem."
"Form gets your mind off yourself."
"A good poem starts in Kansas and ends up in Oz."
"Lots of bad poems start in Oz--I don't know how you got there, and you certainly didn't take me along."
"Readers are not turned on by earnestness. Sincerity is not enough."
"You have to tell your reader a small lie. The lie is that you love poetry more than you love yourself. Which isn't true."
"Jealousy drives creativity. Professors call it literary influence--but really it's envy."
"For the reader to be emotional, you can't be emotional--you need to be calculating."